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Broncos set to receive boost off of last season's injured-reserve list

Ken Pomponio Avatar
March 1, 2016


Yeah, free agency will be here in a week, and the Super Bowl 50 champions’ roster is headed for some inevitable changes.

But let’s discuss a few personnel “additions” that figure to help the Broncos without much, if any, contract wrangling or fuss. They represent the forgotten contingent – the players who finished the season on injured reserve – providing some potential immediate help from the inside.

Here are three possibly overlooked players who could play key 2016 roles for the Orange & Blue if healthy:

DE Kenny Anunike

The 2014 undrafted rookie out of Duke has spent all but three games on injured reserve due to elbow and knee issues in his first two seasons, totaling only 24 snaps (five on defense) this past season.

Anunike, though, earned second-team All-Atlantic Coast Conference honors as a college senior and has been impressive in practices and limited preseason action.

The 6-foot-5, 275-pound end played in one exhibition contest last August, and led the team with eight total tackles (six unassisted) and added a sack and a forced fumble in Seattle. He also had three tackles and a half-sack as a rookie in the 2014 preseason.

Anunike obviously is raw, untested and will have to prove he can stay on the field at the NFL level, but he’s flashed enough potential to earn a shot at some playing time, particularly if the Broncos were to lose starting defensive end Malik Jackson to free agency.

OT Ryan Clady

The 2008 first-round pick became the fourth offensive tackle in league history to start every game and earn three Pro Bowl nominations during his first five seasons.

But foot and knee injuries have cost him all but two games in the 2013 and ’15 seasons – ironically both Super Bowl campaigns for the Orange & Blue.

Clady did start all 16 games at left tackle and earn his fourth Pro Bowl berth in the intervening 2014 season, but many onlookers agreed that Clady’s performance was not up to the level of his previous seasons.

The veteran tackle is entering the final two seasons of his 5-year, $52.5 million contract and is due to count $10.1 million against the Broncos’ 2016 salary cap, but given his injury-filled stretch the last three years, a pay cut and/or a restructure is definitely in Clady’s immediate future if he’s to remain in the Mile High City.

Clady has said he’s willing to absorb that cut, though, and with the offseason question marks surrounding an already shaky offensive front – tackles Ryan Harris and Tyler Polumbus are unrestricted free agents and 2015 second-round pick Ty Sambrailo is coming off his own 2015 stint on IR due to a shoulder injury – the longest-tenured Bronco could very well find himself part of the 2016 solution.

TE Jeff Heuerman

The 2015 third-round pick’s debut season never really made it to the season itself as a torn ACL in May rookie minicamp landed him on IR, delaying any plans Gary Kubiak and Co. had for the former Ohio State standout.

Owen Daniels had his moments last season, but they were sporadic at best and comprised the overwhelming majority of the Broncos’ tight-end production as Virgil Green and trade-acquisition Vernon Davis combined for only 32 catches, 374 yards and one TD.

Daniels will be 34 next season, and Davis is a free agent, leaving plenty of room for the 6-5, 255-pound Heuerman to grow into a role next season in an offense that’s much more tight end friendly than the Orange & Blue’s 2015 numbers showed.


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